So Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice…. Wait wait, I promise I’m not just going to spend the next 1700 words ripping on it…. Much.
Truth be told I was expecting to hate this; my passionate hate for Man of Steel can best be represented by two star’s hate fucking each other till their solar systems are burnt to a crisp. However I simply couldn’t work out the hatred for this one, in fact my expectations were so low that I even enjoyed the occasional moment.
I do agree with most of the cristism I’ve heard of this film, but I don’t find its flaws the death sentence that other critics do. So let’s try and dig into this film and perhaps you can try and work out if this is one you’ll hate, or simply be slightly bored by.
I’m going to avoid talking about how the current DC movie universe interprets the characters; I could spend days ranting about how the current creative team simply doesn’t seem to understand any of the characters they are working with. But I’m willing to accept differences, my Superman is not the only Superman out there. That said I will be talking about characterisation fail… If Superman doesn’t fit the character they have set up for him in Man of Steel or is inconsistent even within the movie I will tell you.
Spoiler alert… he is.
The general tone is Grim Dark, which isn’t surprising. The two main comics this is drawing inspiration from are The Dark Knight Returns and the Death of Superman. Both comics are incredibly popular… but also incredibly of their time. By current standard, they really don’t hold up. The third comic that look to be inspiration is the far superior Injustice series. A comic in which Superman is tricked into killing a pregnant Lois Lane and Metropolis is nuked; Superman then kills the Joker who cause this. The act starts him on the slow journey to become a totalitarian dictator, some hero’s siding with him believing they should use their powers to enforce peace, while others follow Batman in a resistance against him… It is a great else world comic, you should read it.
Plus it has Harley Quinn being amazing...
But back to the movie… ok I am going to try and summarize the plot for you. Wish me luck.
Batman and Superman have a growing animosity to each other, Batman having witnessed the destruction of Metropolis including his own office building doesn’t trust Superman. This is driving him to more extreme measures; which is causing Superman to distrust Batman who is starting to use lethal force. (Partially by branding criminals which then causes them to be beaten to death in prison.) Superman is them framed for a… destruction of a village in Africa which is set up for a further frame job of blowing up the capital building. This is of course being orchestrated by Lex Luthor who forces the battle to come to a head by kidnapping Martha Kent and telling Superman he will burn her alive if Superman doesn’t bring him Batman’s head.
The two fight, after they realise they both have a mother with the same first name, they kiss and make up with Batman going off to save Ma Kent and Superman going after Lex. Lex has used Kryptonian tech to create Doomsday to kill Superman, the two of them then join up with Wonder Woman to defeat him and Superman sort of not really, dies… sure.
I honestly could have kept going. This movie is a mess, there are too many plot points, too many ideas that don’t have time to be fleshed out… or have the skill of creators to be fleshed out. No one’s motivations seem to be thought out or consistent, plot points are brought up and dropped without ever impacting the main plot.
But there are only so many words I can write in an evening, so let’s keep it brief. Nearly all the stuff with Lois Lane sounds incredibly important but ends up meaningless, all of the Batman dream sequences that are used to set up the next movie should have been cut. The African village should have been cut, aside from the movie being too bloated it’s a plot point that consists of nothing but plot black holes. Don’t stare too long into them… you will never come out.
Side stepping the sprawling mess that is the plot, let’s talk about character inconsistency. Who is the Man of Steel Superman; we know he’s been told not to use his powers for fear of being rejected, that he killed the remaining member of his species and this tore him up. So the Superman going into SuperBat has leant a respect for life? Well… not really. We seem him saving a lot of people, he seems to be proud of those he does save, but we also see him not hesitate to use lethal force when Lois Lane is in danger.
Something I’ve realised writing this, the movie asks the question of what does the presence of gods mean to our world, but I think Superman actually thinks he is a god. Typically Superman is represented as the God who was raised a Man, or the Man who has God like powers. He is Clark Kent first, and Superman second. It honestly didn’t occur to me that Superman might actually believe his own hype. But it fits. His hypocrisy of being allowed to use lethal force without any checks by the people but calling Batman a vigilante; his disregard for the human life spilt but how the death of the other Kryptonian tore him up. Superman seems to randomly decide who is deserving of being saved, with those he loves always deserving.
This Superman does appear to believe that he is indeed a god.
Then what of the Man who stands with Gods; Batman? Well this Batman is old and tired, he’s been fighting for a long time and has suffered great losses. One of the main differences (I know I know, I said I wasn’t going to talk about comic characters but I keep doing it) in the comics and the film is the origin of Batman. It’s a small change, but one that you could interpret to understand why this Batman uses lethal force. When Thomas and Martha Wayne are mugged, Thomas Wayne fights back… yes it is an incredibly stupid choice in my opinion… Bruce leant that he should fight, even if he will lose, even if there may be a peaceful option. Bruce Wayne will go down fighting, damn the consequences.
Am I giving this film way to much credit? Is this all me just imagining consistency to try and survive this madness? Probably… but come with me a bit further down this rabbit hole.
One of the recurring plot points has been Batman having prophecy dreams; of apocalyptic wasteland where Superman rules as a God and Batman has gone underground to try and defeat him. The Flash appears and tells him Lois Lane is key (remember that Injustice comics I mentioned?) well perhaps the current creative direction really does want Superman to go this way. They want to bring Superman to the point where he will rule the world, his grief breaking off his last connection to humanity.
This won’t mean a dam thing if this creative team can’t put together a film that isn’t held together by more than sticky tape and second hand gum… I may not hate this as much as Man of Steel… but it is a worse movie. Structurally and technically it is a long, often dull mess that succeeds in saying so much but meaning nothing.
However let’s end this on a bit of a positive note and talk about the things I’ve liked. First off, anyone who has seen even a cursory glance at the reviews knows that Wonder Woman is handled well. She doesn’t have much to do but the few moments show her as an incredibly competent battle weary warrior. Having turned from defending the world of man, she is shown the meta humans and decides to get back into the fight… her motivations don’t make much sense nor much difference to the plot.
I’ve seen a lot of hate and a lot of love for Lex Luthor in this film, some saying it’s simply an attempt to have a discount Heath Ledger performance. I… disagree, while it goes off the rails at the end I thought Lex was one of the more well thought out characters. His motivation is revealed backwards, we fist get indication that Lex doesn’t trust power… or he doesn’t trust others who are more powerful them him. He then has a near break down as he discusses how own impotent power, how the presence of a Superman has undone all the power he has. If Superman exists what does any of the power Lex Luthor have matter… we then find out the motivation for this; that Lex was a beaten child. Growing up feeling completely powerless.
… he then starts randomly rambling about Darkside and implying he was doing this for him and everything falls apart at the scenes. And yes… the ‘Peach Ice Tea’ scene is stupid. But otherwise he is the only one with a clear character motivation. Although he does seem to be taking more than a page from both Heath Ledgers Joker as well as Vincent D’Onofrio’s KingPin; and he doesn’t do as well as either.
So; yes… this movie is a dark and boring mess. The occasional highlight can’t really save it. You may have noticed I haven’t been talking about the actual fight… it lasts five minutes and is totally underwhelming. The fight with Darkside has a bit more too it, mostly from some beautiful images that are just flat out comic frames and the inclusion of Wonder Woman. The likelihood is that you have already seen this or aren’t planning to; it was always going to make its money.
Here’s hoping that a change of creative team for the other DC movies will start pulling together some sharper projects.
Lets have some more Injustice Harley Quinn to say good bye. Here's hoping for Unicorns in the Suicide Squad Movie.
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